With the increase in medical and recreational marijuana legalization across the country, research continues to uncover this plant's pharmacological and physical effects. Marijuana has over 400 unique compounds that interact with our system like no other. These reactions can cause many benefits, including better sleep, improved appetite, and of course, getting high.

How Does Marijuana Work Pharmacologically?

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Cannabis has 421 known plant-based compounds that include terpenes and other beneficial molecules. Additionally, there have been 113 phytocannabinoids currently identified in cannabis.

Phytocannabinoids are namely what gives marijuana its effects. The most heavily researched phytocannabinoids are 9-delta tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

THC is the psychoactive molecule in marijuana. Meanwhile, CBD is the primary molecule found in hemp. Cannabis with 0.3% THC or less is classified as hemp, while 0.3% THC or more is labeled marijuana.

Phytocannabinoids interact with our bodies through cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoid receptors adhere to cells present in our organs, tissues, and muscles.

There are 2 primary cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). They are predominantly found in different areas than one another and have unique interactions with each phytocannabinoid.

When a state of balance is thrown off, the cannabinoid receptors send negative impulses back through a network known as the endocannabinoid system.

When the body receives this message, it produces stabilizing compounds known as endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids promote homeostasis (balance).

Phytocannabinoids interact with cannabinoid receptors, too. CBD works in many ways as endocannabinoids. It helps promote homeostasis, which is why CBD oil products have grown in popularity.

Minor phytocannabinoids and THC also interact with cannabinoid receptors. However, THC creates a psychoactive experience. While some other phytocannabinoids can promote mind-altering effects, none are as prominent as THC.

What Are Physical Effects of Marijuana

Marijuana has a full spectrum of phytocannabinoids. Each plays a role in the medicinal and recreational benefits of marijuana. Here are some of the ways marijuana affects the human body.

Causes A High

THC has a penchant for CB1 receptors. CB1 receptors are found in the brain. They significantly impact the central nervous system.

When THC binds to CB1 receptors, it causes a euphoric sensation. That's why a person feels mind-altering effects merely moments after smoking from their mini bong.

Helps Pain Management

While we experience pain physically, much of that pain is actually in our heads. When cannabinoid receptors experience a change in homeostasis, they let the endocannabinoid system know. T

The brain will eventually receive this message and interpret its severity. Based on the interaction, our brain will manifest symptoms. These symptoms are the brain's way of letting us (the human) consciously know to do something about the issue.

Cannabinoid receptors can prompt the brain to produce a protein known as substance P. Substance P lets the body know that there's discomfort, which manifests as what we know as pain.

This pain will transpire where the irritated cannabinoid receptor lies. That's why many people use cannabis for arthritis care.  

THC interacts with CB1 receptors in the brain. It can promote a calming effect that helps inhibit substance P production.

Furthermore, other minor phytocannabinoids interact with the receptors causing this reaction. Phytocannabinoids, such as CBD, can calm these receptors, reducing the frequency of substance P secretion.

Supports Healthy Sleep Patterns

One of the primary reason for poor sleep patterns is chronic stress. Whenever we endure chronic emotional stress, our body continually produces excitatory hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline.

The body can only contain so many hormones. So, when stress keeps prompting cortisol and adrenaline hormone production, it leaves little room for other hormones.

Melatonin is our sleep hormone. When cortisol levels are high, melatonin levels remain low. Therefore, long-term stress can cause sleep issues.

A body that's lacking sleep is an unhappy one. Now, we have physical stress.

Emotional and physical stress will inevitably trigger our cannabinoid receptors. Marijuana can calm these receptors and promote a euphoric feeling.

Naturally, cortisol levels will decline. That opens the door for more beneficial hormones, such as melatonin, to enter the system. In turn, you will have a more restful night's sleep.

Boosts Mood

When we are anxious and depressed, it can cause lower levels of feel-good hormones, including serotonin and GABA.

Serotonin is responsible for feelings of happiness. Meanwhile, GABA promotes a calming effect on the body.

Anxiety and depression impact our mental state, but it also takes a physiological toll on the body. Long-term mental health issues will inevitably alert cannabinoid receptors.

Marijuana can calm these excited receptors. Resultantly, it slows down neural chatter in the brain.

When this happens, the body will stop producing stress hormones and default back to the happier ones. That's why people with anxiety and depression experience benefits when smoking marijuana.

Stimulates Appetite


Our digestive tract produces our appetite hormones. Stomach cells let the mind know when we're hungry. They also dictate when to stop eating.

Ghrelin is our hunger hormone. The production of ghrelin can be activated by CB1 receptors.

CB1 receptors are abundant in the digestive tract. When we consume marijuana, it stimulates these receptors.

This interaction causes the small intestine to release ghrelin into the system. In turn, we feel hungry.

Between this reaction and marijuana's ability to help with pain perception, these are the reasons why marijuana is suitable for cancer patients.

Marijuana's ability to stimulate appetite might also make it a good treatment option for people recovering from an eating disorder.

Calms Digestive Issues

Cannabinoid receptors also impact how our guts operate. They can stimulate tight junctions that surround our gut lining.

These proteins are responsible for allowing nutrients from our small intestines to permeate into the blood while keeping the toxins in the colon out. However, many factors can mess up this process.

A lot of foods in our diet, exposure to toxins in the environment, and illnesses can all degrade the gut lining. In the long-term, the body can become susceptible to chronic inflammation and GI issues.

Consuming marijuana can help regulate gut motility so that the tight junctions only open when intended. That's why many people experience comfort using cannabis when they have Crohn's Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Ulcerative Colitis.

Final Thoughts

With growing research on marijuana, it's becoming evident that it's a great way to live a healthy lifestyle.

Of course, marijuana is also an excellent way to have fun. So, make sure you enjoy cannabis responsibly!

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